Community Development Software Simplifies Accessing Code Books

What is the most important aspect of any new building? As a homeowner, you may quickly think about great use of space, an intuitive layout, or a pleasing exterior. But ask any construction contractor or municipality building inspector, and the answer comes down to one word: safety.

To ensure newly built projects and major renovations are safe to occupy for businesses and residents, municipal inspectors compare the building in front of them to existing laws. Known as local or state building codes, these rules are very numerous and detailed. Making them accessible to inspectors in the field is critical for timely, accurate inspections that benefit contractors, owners, and residents. In this article, we explore how software like FastTrackGov® (FTG) can support inspectors by making information more easily accessible.

Why Building Codes Matter

A community’s building code is basically a set of regulations that determines the design, construction methods, and potential modifications that can be made to a home, office, or mixed-use building within an area. They apply to virtually every built structure in an area.

Building codes not only provide guidelines for contractors and inspectors. Their main aim is to ensure that future tenants are safe. To that end, building codes cover the type of materials that can be used when building or upgrading a structure, and they detail fire safety requirements. Most building codes will specify the number of fire escapes needed, for example.

New buildings naturally need to adhere to the latest version of the municipality’s building code. For older buildings, there may be exceptions or grace periods in which upgrades can be made.

Why Building Codes Differ Between Locations

Building codes also address protection from potential natural disasters. If a municipality is based in an area that is prone to wildfires, excessive amounts of wind, rain, hail, or even earthquakes, it will require specific provisions in its building code.

Take an area like southern California, for example: some of the municipalities around Los Angeles are far more likely to experience earthquakes than a similar-size community in, say, New Jersey. On the other hand, New Jersey winters pose different challenges than southern California winters.

For those reasons, building codes need to differ from one location to another. At the same time, municipalities must ensure they cover the basis of federal provisions and any other regulations that apply to buildings anywhere. This is where so-called model codes come into play.

Model building codes are drafted by the non-profit International Code Council (ICC). An easy way to think of them is to imagine a framework of rules that individual municipalities can use to craft their own, customized version of municipal building codes. Building codes do not stay the same for long.

When a certain practice or material is found to be unsafe, institutions like the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) investigate to identify areas for improvement. Put simply (the process is somewhat more complicated), their recommendations inform legislation which is then reflected in model code updates.

Local building departments will use these model codes to develop regulations that suit their area. These local building codes and regulations then form the basis of what inspectors use in the field.

How to Use Software to Make Building Codes More Accessible

Building codes used by inspectors are both highly detailed and change regularly. Taking a large folder of rules to an inspection site is simply not practical. Making them available to inspectors through software or an app increases productivity and leads to more efficient and more accurate inspections.

Community development software like FTG allows municipality leaders to streamline the work of their building inspectors. FTG can easily link to the latest municipal building codes, ensuring inspectors have access to relevant regulations no matter where they are.

Combining this capability with the FTG mobile app allows inspectors to serve residents and businesses even better. The app allows inspectors to access all the information they need when they are in the field. They can also update findings in between appointments, improving collaboration with the office-based team.

Find Out More about Introducing FastTrackGov in Your Community

Is your community ready to embrace technology and improve building inspections and other processes for contractors, inspectors, businesses, and residents? Talk to our team to find out how to transition to online services that benefit municipality employees and the community.